Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Indianapolis Colts say, “Drink yo milk suckas!”

As mentioned in the previous post, a teacher at the high school where I work has been letting me give Vegan Nutrition 101 presentations to her health class students. It has been an awesome opportunity for me to do a lot of educating and re-educating on the subject as I want to offer these kids the most solid and honest information I can. They are by no means the only ones getting an education out of this though, as the information I am coming across is absolutely blowing my mind. Maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe it should be commonplace and more “duh” than anything, but as I’ve done the most basic of research I keep coming across more statistics and, quite frankly, revelations regarding the vegan diet that it has become hard to hold back my enthusiasm about this new wealth of knowledge. And I’ve just barely tapped the surface. Of course, this is ultimately going to filter into this blog quite frequently I imagine and I’m toying with the idea of taking a subject each and dedicating an extensive blog posting to it alone (don’t hold me to it though).

Ok, so the reason I wanted to give these vegan nutrition presentations to the kids in the first place was to give a greater balance to the knowledge they will get about the variety, or lack thereof, of ways to eat. Ultimately, diets are simplified and broken down into Carnivorous, Omnivorous, and Herbivorous, of which the Omnivorous diet becomes the default. Anything else (well, not carnivorous of course) becomes a fringe diet and any drawbacks or benefits gets swept aside. Herbivorous diets are popular enough among the human species that they actually get some air time, but not much, despite the overwhelming evidence that eating a greater proportion of plant-based foods is incredibly healthy and acts to not only prevent so many prevalent diseases in our culture, but can actually REVERSE them once they have taken hold. Yes, look it up. So, not only does the healthiest diet (in this specific cultural context) humans can eat get disregarded and swept aside, but the default becomes an omnivorous diet that is highly americanized in proportions and includes the consumption of milk long after we should have been weaned from ANY milk, human or otherwise. So, in short, I want to lend legitimacy to this diet, to give these kids the impetus to consider what they eat, how it affects them and options to eat better.

Before the last presentation I gave, I suddenly realized I had never looked into what their Health and Wellness text books actually say about vegetarianism. I was mildly embarrassed, considering the book might have been quite extensive with its information or even highly supportive of the diet. I had one student show me where vegetarianism is referenced, only to find A SINGLE PAGE dedicated to addressing the diet. Then today, I actually read what it said, again trying to give it the benefit of the doubt. I give you the text…..

VEGETARIAN DIETS (a few types of vegetarian diets are described)

HEALTH BENEFITS Vegetarian diets have some health benefits. Animal products are sources of fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol. A diet low in fats, saturated fats, an cholesterol helps reduce blood cholesterol. You are less likely to develop high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer and colon cancer. It is also easier to maintain a healthful weight. Of course, a person can eat red meat occasionally and still obtain these health benefits.

DISCUSSING CHOICES Teens who choose a vegetarian diet should discuss their choice with their parents or guardians and a physician or dietitian. Teens need to get enough protein, B vitamins, and calcium for growth and development. Foods of animal origins are a source of complete protein.

INCOMPLETE PROTEINS Foods of plant origin are sources of incomplete proteins. Teens who do not eat foods of animal origin must combine different sources of incomplete protein to get enough protein in their diet. Two sources of incomplete protein can be combined to provide all the essential amino acids needed. For example, a teen might eat a vegetable burger and a serving of beans at the same meal, or vegetarian chili topped with cheese.

Because foods of animal origin are the source of vitamin B12, a physician or dietician may recommend vitamin supplements. Dairy foods are the best source of calcium. Teens who eliminate or restrict dairy products must discuss with a physician or dietician how to get enough calcium.

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THIS is what passes as nutritional education regarding vegetarian diets at the school where I work and I guarantee we are not the exception. During the last presentation I gave I talked about the meat and dairy industries and how they have their hands deep into the school systems, always pushing their products to the next generations. I pointed out the “drink your milk” Colts poster next to the nurses office and the deals they make with distributors to get milk everywhere. I also know they have great influence in the creation of health text books and although I couldn’t find any specific mention of their involvement in this text, it is PLAIN AS DAY that there is an agenda to this “education”. And if there isn’t, the authors should be admonished for deliberately trying to cause great concern around the vegan diet, even insisting that a teenager MUST see a physician or dietician if they cut out dairy. Honestly, I don’t have the patience right now to address this line by line, but I sure as hell could and it wouldn’t be difficult.

I sent an email to the health teacher today expressing my gratitude for allowing me to present to her classes, but also acknowledging that I struggle with trying to be objective in my presentations and not pushing an agenda of any sort. Education is best when as neutral as possible, but then I read that text and realized that I’m not just filling in the objective education blanks, but actually confronting information soaking with agenda and deliberately creating concern around a diet that not only has SOME health benefits, but is healthy at its base, that is HEALTH PERSONIFIED. Eating a sound vegan diet supplies all the nutrients (save B12, which is another blog post I will address) one needs to develop, grow and flourish as a human being. And contrary to the omnivorous diet, which includes animal proteins – including milk, it has NO drawbacks. Any deficiencies related to the diet are a matter of poor eating choices by the suffering individual, which likely is most often a matter of not eating enough variety. Period. Fruits and vegetables don’t give you heart disease. Nuts and legumes don’t give you cancer. But guess what foods do? Look, eating too much broccoli will not clog your arteries with cholesterol and fats. Animal foods will. Eating a truckload of blueberries and mango won’t feed cancer cells (but I suppose if that’s all you ate you might deal with some fructose issues and probably some diabetes), but milk proteins will.

So tell me, why do we still insist on basing our dietary choices around meat and dairy, while suffering through a few vegetables here and there, getting those down only so you don’t feel guilty eating a pint of simple sugar saturated ice cream, then turn around and shake our heads in disdain at those who eat plant-based diets, considering them dangerous (diets and sometimes the people too!), even educating our kids as such, pulling them further to the side of the omnivorous diets that are the root cause of so many life destroying diseases?

There are reasons, plenty. Some cultural, some ritual, some biological, some hold overs from a less scientifically based time, some economic, some political and it gets tiring trying to draw the lines and connect the dots. It’s where I struggle with talking to these kids about their diets and why they need to completely rethink nutrition and what they are told about it. It’s hard to talk to them about cancer and heart disease when their greater concerns are about not tripping down the stairs in front of that one cute boy or girl. I understand, I get it, but damn I wish someone would have presented this information to me when I was younger. Wait, actually someone did, albeit in the form of an underground music culture, but I got the information none the less. I’m glad I did and I hope I can offer something of the same, giving some sort of redemption to a few of these kids, setting them up to make better dietary choices down the line.

One last thing, I’ve got a pretty good weapon on my side, a pretty convincing argument….my running. I always address the myth of the “weak vegetarian” because it’s still so commonplace and as that text I posted above alludes to, OBVIOUSLY vegans MUST talk to a dietician because eating only plant-based foods is so dangerous and precarious and surely you’d only be able to just survive and in no way be active, strong and healthy. I mean…come on! The kids seem to really enjoy hearing me talk about marathoning and the mileage that goes into the training and, honestly, if that’s the only thing that sticks in their heads after the class is over, I’m sure it’s not the greatest leap to think they’ll be able to connect the dots on their own. This gives me inspiration.

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Be healthy y’all…or die trying.

There is this common association with running and health and obviously the relationship makes sense. Be active, work your systems and attain overall strength. I’ve had coworkers say such things as “You are like the epitome of health” or “I look at you as the pinnacle of living healthy”, which is far too generous of a statement to be accepted without reservation. Regardless, it’s undeniable that physical activity, especially something so all encompassing like running, carries the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Here’s the thing though, before one should go flippantly advertising their amazing running generated health, they would do good to actually define what health actually means. What are its boundaries and when does one cross them either in moderation or excessiveness? Maybe it’s just a by-product of a sedentary culture, but when we think of someone doing ANYTHING physical, we automatically think they are engaging in a healthy activity, for anything else is probably more akin to watching football on the couch all sloth-like, shoving doritos down our throats or shooting up drugs.

But what about the other end of things? What about the excessive end of the health spectrum?

Lately, I’ve been giving talks (I like to call them “discussions”) on the 101 of veganism to high school health classes (yes, my school is cool enough to let their overpaid janitor actually teach the kids) with the foundation that I’m promoting a healthy lifestyle. I don’t feel many pangs of guilt doing this because when I limit my discussion to veganism I am talking solely about healthy living and what it means to make healthy choices. But inevitably I reference my running or the teacher prompts me by asking about my marathon training and goals, of which the kids are very curious about and ask me many questions. This is the point where the line between living healthy and living obsessively starts to blur a little bit. Because here’s the kicker…

I’m not that healthy.

Ok, by any reasonable standard I’d have to say I’m pretty healthy. The last blood work I had done my numbers were very solid, nothing even close to concerning. The last X-ray I had showed I had great bone density. My credit score is nothing short of improbable (oh…i guess that last one is unrelated…but it’s still true!). These are all denotations of a healthy life, but then again, I’m a competitive distance runner that trains, when things are going well, at 100 miles per week give or take 10 or 20. Each day I put in between 10 and 22 miles of repetitive pounding on my body…and that’s really not that healthy.

I also train a couple times a week at near maximum exertion, which depending on the type and distance I am running, really taxes the system and compromises its ability to fight immunity for a brief period of time. Each full on exertion lowers my immune system and leaves me susceptible to the nastiness that resides in our 4 year olds snotty boogers that he holds and studies like its a new species. This is not healthy.

In race scenarios I push myself to a level of fatigue and exhaustion that is just absurd and somehow when I reach that impassable bridge of breakdown….I keep going. I expend every bit of stored energy my body can hold and run myself into the ground. I distinctly recall a race this past summer where an hour after the whole ordeal was over I was suddenly and rapidly overcome by dizziness and an extreme sense of nausea. I was forced to fall to my knees and nearly vomit violently lest I pass out and smash my head on the ground. This…obviously…is not healthy.

During marathons I attempt to run a distance that, at the speed I do so, is simply beyond my body’s ability to compensate. My body has developed over the millions of years of evolution to only withstand and store enough energy for about 2 hours of running….anything after that is a matter of proper fueling and sheer force of will. It’s also hell on the body and demands not days, but weeks, of recovery when all is said and done. This, is not healthy.

And finally, I run every day. I run every day I can possibly stand to run, which at last count, was 7 straight weeks of running without a single day off, until the weather finally broke me down mentally and I took a day off. The mental effort it takes to do so is one thing, nothing consequential really, but the potential physical wear and tear this brings to my body is something of more concern. It feels like, as a competitive runner, that I’m always running on this precipice of progression and injury. When adviseable, we run at such a significant exertion, trying to push our bodies to this new plateau of strength, speed and endurance, but just as close as we may be to a breakthrough on any of these levels, we are also just as close as pushing our bodies over that edge and suffering any number of injuries. Shin splints, plantar fascitis, stress fractures, groin pulls, achilles, etc. etc. etc. THIS IS NOT HEALTHY. We are the poster children for excessiveness. Screw drugs, we are ruining ourselves through running!

Which brings us to yesterday, when I started running up the street and made it about 200 yards limping to favor my right foot before turning around and calling it a day. All day I had felt a sharp pain behind my big toe that forced me to go home mid-day to change into more comfortable shoes. This only alleviated the problem temporarily. I figured that day off would solve the problem as it often does, but even today the pain was still there. I did stretches, investigated the area multiple times, did some massage, and prayed to a bunch of gods I made up on the spot….but nothing worked. I emailed my coach to alert him to this situation and he had me come into the shop immediately after work to assess the situation, suggesting I bring all my running and work shoes in to help with the diagnosis.

After he stopped wretching at the hideousness that is my naked foot, he had me do some walking and jogging to get a better idea of what my foot was doing. To summarize the situation, I basically have a small bunion just behind my big toe and with a bit of ibuprofen to keep the swelling down, another day off of running (blech), some heat/ice pairing and a realignment of my shoelaces, I should be good to go again. Oh, and I need to stop running on the hard pavement of the canal that is often spotted with ice, snow and endless 90 degree turns, which is absolutely fine by me….if it would only stop snowing and I had some clear ground to run on.

So back to my initial point…Yes, running is healthy. Yes, I’d consider myself pretty damn healthy (knock on wood, stick a pin in an Atkins voodoo doll, etc.). But let’s not get carried away here….I’m a competitive runner and by default this means I’m excessive. I think about my running continuously (I mean, god, how long is this post anyways?), I run more miles a week than any non-civilized person would ever find logical or adviseable, and I subject my body to a level of excessiveness that continuously demands bouts of rest and recovery. I mean, doesn’t the act of “recovery” denote that something happened that necessitates recovering FROM? I think so. So yeah, overall, I’m building a biological system of strength and overall health, but in the process I’m taking risks that really aren’t all that sensible or about keeping me in this game for the long haul. Not that I feel I’m doing anything fundamentally detrimental or so risque, but hey, as long as we’re on the ride of hyperbole…..

I’d rather burn out than fade away.

See you in the streets…once this latest unhealthy setback rights itself.

Hickory!!

I don’t want to be a hoosier (long-term resident of Indiana) right now. Those of you who know me will understand that I’m not talking about the regional identifier so much as I’m talking about the attitude of a Hoosier during these less than pleasant winter months. Let me clarify. “Hoosiers” seem to be reborn with every winter weather event. No matter that we live in a bio region which experiences the full gamut of seasons, it still seems like every single winter “hoosiers” live it for the first time. They complain about the cold when it’s 30 degrees. They complain about 1/2 an inch of snow that disappears by mid-afternoon. They complain about single digit wind chills and storm the grocery store shelves whenever a newscaster even mentions the possibility of flurries. THOSE Hoosiers I can’t stand. Spineless wimps that spend maybe a cumulative 5 minutes a day out in any sort of adverse weather condition. The way they complain though, you’d think they were homeless and lived outdoors, chopping their own wood and catching mice and moles for sustenance. So yeah, I don’t want to be one of THOSE Hoosiers. THOSE aren’t the Hoosiers of Hickory High and John Mellencamp. Those are the Hoosiers of Dan Quayle and Jim Jones. Spineless wimps.

So yeah, forgive me for saying this and don’t revoke my mid-west status, but DAMN THIS WEATHER. I’m almost broken. I’m sure it has something to do with going out to run a minimum of 10 miles in it everyday, some days kicking down 20 miles and others knocking out some serious speed workouts on snow and ice. The sort of mental effort it takes to not only get out in the stuff, but to also perform in can really wear on a person, ya know? Personally, I love adverse weather. I love being active in it no matter the conditions, even if it’s just to spite those that cower under overcast skies. I make the most of any situation, no matter how “bad” it may be perceived. I’m in it to win it, no matter what. But hey, I’m only human. I have my breaking points. And I’m starting to hit mine.

Maybe it was the relatively warm few days we had a couple weeks ago where I could go out in shorts for a few days straight or maybe it’s just the latest dumping of snow, slush, ice and cold winds that is really cutting through my thick outer shell, quite literally. But damn, when I have to get up at 6 in the morning, when it’s nearly pitch dark, and put down 20 miles, 15 of them sequentially faster than the last, and have to do it in wind chill temperatures of 1 degree….well, that just gets old. The mind starts playing tricks on you. Hell, just the other day I entertained the idea of finding a treadmill to do my speed workout on. Can you believe that? A treadmill?!! What’s happening to me!?

And here we are in February, pretty much still the beginning of February, which means a full month of potentially bitterly cold winds, snow and ice. We are certainly not out of the worst of it yet. Add to this mental weight that one must overcome to run in these conditions, my daily 8 hour job which currently has me fighting a continuous freeze/thaw/freeze/thaw cycle that seems to be tearing our building apart at the seams….of which it is my responsibility to keep the whole thing together, and I’m basically DONE with winter. Really, I’m ready for it to be over. I want one full blast of sun to evaporate any residual ice and temperatures that hover in the 30’s. That’s it, for the entire rest of this month, that’s all I want.

Although it’s difficult, I still try to look on the bright side of this overcast scenario. I really have no choice. It’s not like I’m going to stop running, so SOMETHING has to get me through. For instance, the single digit temperatures really put the 30 degree temperatures in perspective and when you couple that with sunny skies, it feels damn near like spring. I don’t even hesitate to throw on the most revealing of running shorts when temperatures soar into the balmy 30’s. And when that happens, your legs feel loose and free and you can seemingly run for days. It’s really wonderful and gives a small taste of what is to come around the corner.

And what is to come around the corner are those days where I can come home shirtless and absolutely dripping with sweat, leaving butt marks on the dry porch cement. God I love those days. I’ll take sweltering, breath-sucking humidity over bitter, finger breaking cold any day. I’ll find the joy in both of them, yes, but if given the choice I’ll take the former without hesitation.

Then there is that necessary egotistical component. I know it’s too early to post what has become something of a blogging tradition for me…but it’s fitting. And be sure, I’ll post this again next month. This, my friends, is the winning haiku from the Runners World haiku contest from a couple years back. I’ve never forgotten it, and it still gets me through some painfully cold winter runs.

Fairweather runners
Emerge like they own the place
I ran all winter

See you out there not so bright and early tomorrow. It’s gonna be cold and we’re gonna be running fast.

Impromptu Shoe Review

First things first….I was interviewed a couple weeks ago about my running and veganism, etc. and the interview was then turned into a first person article by the journalist. I thought the column had been pulled completely, but I woke to find a handful of work emails with a link to this piece. Enjoy.

http://www.indystar.com/article/20100211/LIVING01/2110402/1083/LIVING01/It-takes-an-Olympian-effort-to-gain-elite-status

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I run in the Adidas Adizero racing flats for most of my workouts and they will also be my race shoe of choice when I get back to that (March 21st – see the race calendar). They are incredibly light, supportive yet solid in the heel….and neon. Almost. They are more flourescent actually, or yellow. Whatever color they are, I really enjoy seeing them flash across the ground from just below my line of sight. I’ve learned lately that I prefer to see either something bright like these or just a classic white shoe when I’m out running. They always make me feel fast. I thought I’d be into something like red or black shoes, but those always just LOOK heavy, and running is as much about how fast you perceive yourself to be as it is how fast you actually run. Look slow, feel slow, run slow. Look fast, feel fast, run fast. So these shoes below have certainly become my shoe of choice, not only because of how they look, but also how incredibly light and powerful they feel.

They are a near perfect shoe….except for one thing….which is this part.

Sure, that may look like an incredibly grippy and solid sole, except for one thing. It’s not. It’s actually a razor. A really sharp razor. Don’t believe me?

Those, are my ankles after today’s workout. Those three nicks on the right are each indicators of tiny missteps that brought the side of the sole of my shoe across my ankle bone. That somewhat drippy mess on the left is the same thing, just a little deeper. Personally, I consider this something of a happy design flaw (we run till we bleeeeed!!!), but Michelle thinks it’s a sign of bad form. She’s probably more right. Actually, these battle wounds came during a fast run with lots of turns and relatively poor wintery footing, but still, I didn’t expect to have my ankles cheese grated during the run.

Eh, a small sacrifice for really awesome shoes I guess.

Tattoo mentality

It snowed here in Indianapolis yesterday and all night, letting up only late into the morning. All over town the call went out, “Snowpocalypse! Snowpocalypse! Clear the shelves of bread and milk! We need french toast and perishables in the event of total destruction!” It snowed 8 inches….the day before my 20 mile long run.

I woke to find a pretty significantly thick blanket of white stuff disappearing the demarcations where sidewalk and street once sat. Everything blended into one flat surface of beautiful fluff. This, to any normal person, would be a pretty decent indication that one should go back to bed and skip the run or at least wait until later in the day when visibility and a clear path of travel might show itself.

I am not a normal person apparently.

I steeled myself for the effort the night before and laid out all my winter running clothes, topping the ensemble with my Solomon Speedcross 2 shoes….which are the best winter weather shoes you can find anywhere, ever. That is my non-objective opinion, that is truth. After a bit of peanut butter covered toast and a cup of earl grey tea I ventured out into the snowy landscape, which I quickly came to understand that I had severely underestimated the extent of. My first step off my porch sunk me up to my calf. I looked into the street to find a somewhat plowed area and shuffled through to it, managing to get a stride once I hit a more traveled lane. Then I hit the wind. A stiff, sideways, unrelenting wind that cut right through both top layers I had put on for the cold air. Figuring I would warm up once I got going, I pushed on up the cold, dark, icy street, making my way to our local rail trail that, although I figured would be sufficiently covered in snow, might not be impassable.

I was wrong.

I turned onto the trail and felt the quicksand like sensation of my feet sinking and sticking in the snow. Add to that my exposed ankles absorbing the frozen snow, and the northerly headwind that bit right into my chest and I instantly had second thoughts. I thought back to my facebook post the day prior where I made mention that the weather was never too bad to run 10 miles in and felt those words choking in my throat. “But this is 20 miles” I tried to rationalize to myself. It didn’t work. I made it about 400 yards up the trail and realized that 5 straight miles of this was NOT going to happen, my inner disaster alarm sounding loudly. I turned back towards the partially plowed road and tried to come up with Plan B. Of course, instantly, I debated scrapping the run. “My quads are sore, they need a break.” “I’ll do it later today.” Etc. etc. I knew that if I waited to run later…I simply wouldn’t. I was up and it was either now or never. My pride got the best of me as I debated calling it a day on the way home, finishing the scheduled long run with a whopping two miles. I couldn’t do it…I just couldn’t, so I told myself I’d run towards the inner city canal to see if that surface was more navigable, that way I’d at least have 6 miles in the books if that was a no-go, so that’s what I did.

I worked my way down the nearly deserted morning streets, soaked with slush and ice and headed towards the 3 mile canal loop. As I neared it I felt my pace pickup, anxious to see if this run was going to continue on, and sure enough, the city plows had cleared the walks late enough into the evening that although the footing wasn’t incredible, it was at least good enough to continue on.

I worked out the mileage in my head and realized I had to run 5 loops of the canal to get my mileage in, which didn’t exactly sell me on the joy of the effort, but at least I had no reason to back down now.  And things weren’t THAT terrible really. I mean, the surface was either drifted snow, foot soaking slush, packed ice, or ankle-twisting rutted snow and although the wind was at my back for half the loop it was smack dead in my face for the other half, but at least after one loop I realized I could continue on the whole way.

Each loop then became a mental game of anticipation, waiting for the tailwind to push me down the canal, and then dreading running right back into it the other way. And as the loops repeated over and over again I realized how difficult it was to lose myself in my thoughts as EVERY SINGLE STEP was taken with a focus and concentration necessary to keep from twisting my ankle or slamming hard on the ice. Oh, and my quads hurt.

The thoughts in my head crept in again, “Coach said 16 – 20, so technically I could cut this short.” “My legs probably could use a break.” And suddenly, the effort got so rough and uninspiring that I was consumed with that rare, distinct and familiar thought that I experience most intently during a tattoo session, “Why in the hell am I doing this to myself?” But I do. And I have my reasons. And I kept going.

Then all of a sudden the pain in my quads disappeared and was replaced with a weighted fatigue, probably generated by slogging through the snow drifts and using extra effort to keep myself upright. And the mental effort became that much greater, even when I was down to two and then one loop left. This run, whatever it may have been affording me physically, was now about mental strength and I pushed to keep running in such absurd conditions, knowing the last 3 1/2 miles were going to be straight into the headwind I had been fighting all morning. I hit that headwind and started making my way home, slowly…very slowly, but surely.

And the mental effort never got easier, until maybe the last block or two, but damn did I know I accomplished something awesome when it was all said and done. 20 miles is never a simple task, no matter how routine it may be, but to push through such absurd conditions and complete the effort when just 1 mile in I was about to call it quits will offer me immeasurable benefits when I need them most. That’s what this absurdity is all about. Like suffering through a tattoo, when it’s all over, it’s so worth it. And I’ve got a souvenir of which the benefits will long outlive the pain.

Do something awesome today friends.

It’s not that super really.

This weekend is what is endearingly called “The Big Game”, the Super Bowl, as if I need to tell you that. Everybody knows this. It’s, well, part of being a functioning member of this culture of ours, whether you want to be or not. And me, I’m from Indianapolis. And I live in Indianapolis, so you know that no matter how removed I might be from these sorts of cultural events, I damn well know the Super Bowl is about to commence. I know this because breweries are making blue beers. I know this because our fountains have been dyed blue. I know this because our PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM TRIED TO GO ON A TWO HOUR DELAY THE DAY AFTER THE GAME, get this, because the last time the Colts won the Super Bowl the bus drivers were so hung over or tired that over HALF of them called in sick and chaos commenced getting the kids to school. Fortunately, SOMEONE has their priorities straight and the Department of Education put the smack down on that spur of the moment policy change, well, sort of. The DOE allowed IPS to go on a one hour delay and then force the kids to stay an extra 30 minutes at the end of the day. Anyways, yeah, I know about the super bowl. Everybody does.

And no, I don’t care. Now, before you go getting all defensive on me and calling me a party pooper or whatever, let me just say this, I don’t care about the Super Bowl not because I hate football. I mean, I never watch it true, but if you sat me down with a group of people to watch the game, I would inevitably want to see it played to its conclusion, and would probably instinctually choose a side to root for…and yes, it would probably be the colts for reasons of inherent association. And yes, part of me doesn’t care about the Super Bowl because I’m reacting to dominant culture’s overwhelming acceptance and glorification of what amounts to a simple little game. Yes, I admit this. I want to rain on dominant culture’s parade. I always do. That’s what aggressors get. If they won’t leave us alone, we don’t let them alone when they want to have their little parties. There I said it. But there is something a little more simplistic to my lack of enthusiasm about this HUUUUUGE cultural event. I just don’t feel an association with the game. It’s why I don’t watch the World Series. It’s why I don’t watch the World Cup. It’s why I don’t watch much of anything sporting event-wise….except Curling. Seriously, for some reason I can’t get enough of Curling. I can’t wait for the Winter Olympics.

And running, of course. I like to watch running, which is funny, because running is BOOOOOOORING, well, at least to most of dominant culture it is….but that’s only because they don’t GET IT. Just like I don’t GET football, outside of using it as a reason to gather with friends and create one more reason to get smashed. And that’s ok. I don’t GET football and football fans don’t GET running, which is PART of the reason they don’t watch it. The other part is, unfortunately, why running will NEVER EVER EVER EVER become the cultural spectator event that sports like the Super Bowl and World Series are. That reason is simply that running is not a SPECTATOR sport. Running will never attract the masses and the sponsors like most athletic events because it INHERENTLY lacks the drama, excitement, and stop-go dynamics that make an event exciting to watch. Let’s address a comparison.

I recently read an evaluation of the average football game that stated there is only 17 minutes of ACTUAL PLAYING TIME in a football game. The rest is consumed with commercials, shots of the coaches, shots of the fans, shots of the cheerleaders, huddles, half-times, time-outs, and a clock that ticks down while all this goes on. That means that there are only 17 minutes in a game where the ball is snapped and either ran, thrown, fumbled, dropped, etc. etc. etc. That SOUNDS boring, but obviously is not. I think, these continuous breaks are actually what make football so fun to watch. Think about it, on almost every play there is discussion, anticipation, action, then release, and then the whole process starts over again. This happens repeatedly in a game, so what you end up with is not just one incredibly long game of football, but actually a plethora of tiny games playing out over and over until someone wins. There is a continuous rise and fall of energy, ever renewing itself and keeping everyone on edge until the clock finally runs out. All this translates into a hell of a cultural spectator event.

Then there is distance running, the marathon for example. Granted, a number of us can watch professional runners do nothing more than seemingly put one foot in front of the other for over 2 hours in one sitting and be ABSOLUTELY RIVETED  to the screen, which should go without saying is because we GET it. We know what these runners are going through. Although, to everyone else, it just looks like some people putting one foot in front of the other, sweating, and grimacing, we know something entirely different is going on, something incredibly intense, and incredibly deep within each individual on the screen. We know an incredible human drama is playing out, no matter how calm and static everything may look. It’s because we GET it. We know what’s going on. We can watch the mile splits tick away and feel our jaws drop further and further until they scrape the floor. We can see the most minor changes in the runner’s faces and know where they are physically and mentally in the race. We can see the smallest gap as the beginning of a strategic move dynamically changing the race. We can see the exuberant triumph in a runner’s stride when the last competitor is dropped. We see this because we GET it, because from time to time, we live it. But you know what everyone else sees?

They see a mass of runners slowly leaning off the start line, anti-climactically starting an incredibly long race. They see runners putting one foot in front of the other, over and over and over and over again. Then they see runners crossing a finish line, still rather anti-climactically. And that’s it. There is no continuous rise and fall of energy. There is no break to regroup, no discussion of strategy, no cheerleaders (welsely girls don’t count), and no small races within a big race. It’s just one continuous, attention-span sucking vortex of boredom. Unless you are a runner yourself, you probably just won’t get it. I understand. It’s ok.

And that’s just too bad for you really. Because I know you look at us with disdain for not wanting to reaffirm your modern day Roman Coliseum of violence and brutality, but we’ve got athletic integrity on our side. We may not be very exciting for you to watch, but the experience we share far outweighs some drunken cultural ritual, because that is the other great thing about our sport….participation. You can raise your foam fingers all you want, and paint your face till your skin permanently changes color, but never are you included in the game itself. Us runners, however, are within reason invited to play along, to give us all a chance. Some of us will never toe the line with the professional runners, but we may be right next to them, or a few corrals back, or A LOT of corrals back, but we still got in the race didn’t we. You, unfortunately, are relegated to the sidelines where those hot dogs try to squeeze your heart like a boa constrictor.

We, on the other hand, have our greatest victories by taking part…..even if no one else is watching.